Beginner's Guide to Composting

While most people think that reducing your waste is a lot of time and energy and too challenging, I'm here to tell you that it's quite simple. Cultivating one simple habit at home can save your thousands of dollars in food waste per year and cut your trash in half. It's a solution based in returning to natural ways of living, and one that's gaining a lot of momentum as we look for climate solutions: composting

It is estimated that food waste makes up a huge portion of our trash bins - nearly half. In the U.S., half of all food produce is thrown away. That is about $165 billion in total, costing a family of four about $2,000 a year, right into the trash can.

Instead of focusing on the added challenges we have during this pandemic, like not being able to bring reusable bags to grocery store, focusing on something like food waste will still help you make an enormous positive impact on our planet.

The reason this is such a huge threat to our planet is because the food waste ends up sitting in landfill. Without aeration, food waste emits methane into the atmosphere. Methane is one of the strongest greenhouse gases - nearly 20x more potent than carbon dioxide, and it's a huge contributor to the climate crisis. This is the same greenhouse gas produced by cattle in animal agriculture operations.

The emissions released from food waste in landfill can be easily diverted by each and every one of us with composting. Over the last few years of composting, I've learned a handful of lessons that will hopefully help those that are starting out.

Decide Your Approach

There are many ways to compost and it likely depends on where you live, how deeply you want to get involved, and what resources you have available to you in your area. The main options are:

  • Curbside pick up (if its available in your town)

  • Drop off your compost to somewhere that can use it (local farm, farmer's market, community supported agriculture). I recommend the app Share Waste to find a drop off location in your community!

  • Process it yourself, and use it to grow your own home garden

Research First

Depending on which of the composting options you choose, you'll be able to compost different things. For example, a farm I was donating mine to for years took everything from eggshells to hair to lint. Now that we are using a backyard option, I have to be much more aware about my ratio and what my compost pile needs. Look up what your limitations are, you may not have any!

Freeze it

Unless you live in a super cold climate, it's probably best to freeze your compost to avoid fruit flies and unwanted smells. It makes it easier to deal with and doesn't take up counter space. However, I know many people who keep their compost on their countertop and they love it. It's all about what works for you.

Start small

Each approach has a different level of commitment. Making your own compost requires airflow, like a daily shake or to be placed in a tumbler. You also need to add "browns," like paper products that are required to balance the "greens," or food scraps.

Preserve What You Have

Making your food last longer is one of the best ways to save money and avoid unnecessary food waste. You can preserve food by putting vegetables in water, freezing them, and planning meals with the food you do have.

Enjoy the process

Building a sustainable food system in your household is one the best things for the environment, and it often starts with composting. Cultivating healthy soil is a leading climate solution, and if we implement regenerative farming on a large scale, we may be able to halt the climate crisis. Learn more about regenerative farming and soil health by watching Kiss the Ground , which will definitely motivate you to be part of the solution!

Happy composting!

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